I have spent the month of April thinking about this. When we invaded in 2001, it was a war of necessity, in my opinion. The ruling Taliban had given safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his followers, who used their Afghan base to plan the 9-11 attacks on the U.S.
Unfortunately, the administration's ambitions to forcibly spread democracy through the Middle East led it to fight the Afghan war on the cheap and to severely underfund post-war security and nation-building, just as we did in the 1980s after the CIA helped Afghanistan expel the Soviets. Rather than repeating the Marshall Plan, we repeated Charlie Wilson's War.
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama argued for the need to wind down the Iraq occupation and instead devote more boots on the ground in Afghanistan and, if necessary, Pakistan. He has followed that policy. However, it seems like the window of opportunity to achieve our goals in Afghanistan closed in 2002.
Two events in April have underscored the futility of our continued occupation. At the beginning of the month, a UN compound in Mazar-i-Sharif was stormed by a group of ordinary Afghans without Taliban ties, and eight people were killed. The crowd was outraged by the burning of a Koran by a pile of human feces who claims to be a clergyman in Florida. It is notable that the Koran-burning did not provoke attacks on Westerners in more modern Islamic nations like Turkey and Indonesia, nor even in Saudi Arabia, the heartland of extreme fundamentalist Islam. The Koran-burning was a trigger and an excuse, but I believe the real reason for the attack in Mazar-i-Sharif was a deep hatred of western occupiers.
A few days ago, a member of the Afghan military, following a dispute of some kind with his U.S. allies, opened fire, killing eight U.S. troops and an American contractor before he was shot dead himself. He had no known ties to the Taliban nor Al Quaeda.
If the very people who are being served by UN workers in a relatively secure city hate them enough to riot and kill them, and the Afghan military whom we are supposedly training to take over the nation's security hates our troops enough to turn on them with little provocation, what can our continued occupation possibly accomplish? We are not just fighting the Taliban and Al Quaeda over there. We are fighting ordinary people who are frustrated by the corrupt kleptocracy we put in place there. Hamid Karzai rigged the last election, yet we supported him. How is that encouraging democracy? In Libya, we are dropping bombs to keep Quaddafi from killing the civilians who rose up against him, yet in Afghanistan, we are protecting Karzai from a similar uprising.
We need to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Now.
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